With the current release of the Battlefield 3, I got to thinking “Does realism help players be immersed?” Here is an example of what I am thinking about. The weapons in Battlefield 3 have been made very realistic with the kickback, the modeling, the sounds and even their attachments, but do these efforts help with immersion? I could get caught up in games like Quake without it being realistic, but now I find it hard to keep the same level of immersion because there is so much realism in BF3. The kickback on weapons is one area I have a hard time with, because I am used to the physical response of the weapons, so there is a sensory response being lost with all that jerking the game’s weapons are doing, making it harder to properly aim.
This is the bump in the road with realism: it is hard to properly translate what the actual player might do with said weapon in the real world. To work around this, developers put in a default kickback for everyone. This is where you have to literally put aside your experience with these weapons, which is especially hard to do if you have had some military training like myself. I have to continuously relearn every weapon in every game, because every game is different. Having to do this can be frustrating and this breaks my immersion. When that happens, the game loses its fun factor; it is now a chore and not a game.
The kickback isn’t the only thing that could breaking immersion. Let’s look at the graphics. No, I am not talking about how poor they look but rather how real it can look. I have said I want better graphics in games, but realistic graphics are not going to make the games better, especially if the the gameplay sucks. Let’s look at the Soldier of Fortune games: they are gruesome, literally to the point you see guts flying out. I personally thought that was cool as hell, but it didn’t make the games any more fun. After I played it for so long, I became desensitized to it. Is that what we need from our games? I say no, we don’t. Sure, it may be cool from a tech standpoint, but these are games, they are meant to be fun, and if you focus on the tech more then the mechanics, the game as a whole suffers.
To get players immersed in games, the games themselves need to be fun to play. We don’t need games following a rigid sense of our reality, and following those rules shows a lack of imagination and creation. We play games to escape reality, and we need developers to realize that they just need to be fun for the player to be immersed into them, that it’s the sense of doing something in another world with different rules that makes many games so fun. What I consider to be the definition of immersion to be is playing a game while having fun and not paying attention to the world around me, just the one I am playing, along with me not worrying about what I can do in real life and hating the game for not taking that into account. This is why Battlefield 3 fails to immerse me at times because it is too real sometimes, when in real life I know for fact I can do it differently or do it better. I now look forward to seeing what Skyrim (PC) and Batman Arkham City (PC) has to offer, because they are not about reality but rather taking me into theirs and distracting me from mine.